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Are GMOs the Next “Pink Slime?”

Ken Roseboro
Editor, The Organic & Non-GMO Report

occupymonsantoWant to know more about the dangers of GMOs? Consult with the leading expert, Jeffrey Smith. author of "Seeds of Deception" and founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology, Saturday May 5th at 5:15pm on the Main Stage at Chicago Green Festival.

The battle over “pink slime” or, as the beef industry prefers, “lean finely textured beef” continues to rage in the media. A news article, a food blogger, and celebrity chef created a perfect social media storm causing food industry rejection of the not-too-appetizing-looking product that is made from beef scraps and sprayed with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria.

The lost business forced the product’s manufacturer, Beef Products, Inc. to close three of its four plants, sparking a backlash from supporters such as Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad who is leading a counterattack called “Dude It’s Beef” and calling for a congressional investigation of who organized the smear campaign against it.

Could it be that consumers just find the product disgusting? It’s possible.

But the damage has been done. When new PR textbooks are written, they will refer to pink slime as the ultimate PR disaster. “Pink slime” has entered the lexicon, and the product will forever be known as that no matter how many “Dude It’s Beef” t-shirts are sold.

The curtain has been drawn on another unsavory food industry practice. I’m sure they’ll be more.

The food industry often hides its practices, fearing that if consumers saw them they would be disgusted, e.g. pink slime. Yet, the industry is going against a consumer trend for more information. People want to know the origins of their food. This is one reason why the number of farmers markets in the US is soaring.

But instead of responding to the demand for transparency, Big Food lobbies states to pass “ag gag” laws, as Iowa did, that make it a crime to try and expose inhumane conditions of factory farm “pig prisons.” The biotech industry tries to bully states like Vermont, threatening to sue them if they pass a law requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods—even though the law has overwhelming support in Vermont.

The lesson here is to be up front with American consumers about the foods they eat.

“When you lobby not to label something, it just makes it look like you’ve got something to hide, which is ultimately a bad PR move,” Bill Marler, publisher of Food Safety News online, told the Chicago Tribune in response to Beef Products pink slime disaster.

Marler could just as easily be talking about the biotechnology industry, and its refusal to label foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

This past year has seen unprecedented grass roots action to label GMO foods with a national Just Label It campaign that submitted 1 million comments to the Food and Drug Administration, a ballot initiative in California, and 36 bills dealing with labeling GM foods introduced into 20 states.

People nationwide are demanding the right to know whether their foods contain GMOs.

The biotech industry should take a lesson from the pink slime debacle and stop fighting efforts label their GMOs. Otherwise they could get slimed too.